How House Democrats saved their police funding package
It took some high-wire wheeling and dealing from leadership at the 11th hour to give members a much-needed shield against relentless attacks from Republicans that they’re are soft on crime.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
The House this afternoon passed a package of public safety and policing bills — but the path was much bumpier than Democratic leadership intended.
Members voted on the rule to open debate on the bills three hours behind schedule as top Democrats were met with resistance from House progressives who opposed one of the four bills included in the package. During the delay, Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed back her weekly press conference twice to work her members behind the scenes.
Crisis was averted when Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts voted “present” on the rule rather than against it. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy asked for a few minutes to allow one of his members who was on their way to vote, which would have blocked the rule, but Democrats didn’t wait. Call it a perk of holding the majority.
These developments were particularly strange because Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus yesterday indicated she had the votes to pass the package. House Democrats could only afford to lose four. And at one point this morning, five progressives were threatening to vote against the rule.
But a congressional source told me this afternoon that the deal Jayapal and Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and the CPC’s chief vote-counter were able to negotiate with the frontline Democrats who were pushing to pass the package ahead of the midterms was something progressives could support. The source said the CPC was clear that the votes of the caucus weren’t guaranteed and that it was always going to be a hard vote for progressives.
The key difference between now and a little over a month ago when progressive and Black Democrats united against the previous attempt from frontliners to advance the policing bills was that progressives weren’t at the negotiating table then and this time they were.
Leadership structured the process so that the bills progressive members supported were linked with the one they opposed by Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey. The CPC told the frontliners that the only way the package could move forward was if there were improvements made to the Gottheimer bill, which ended up with reforms to ensure funds are used to support smaller police departments, invest in de-escalation training and mental health, and improve data collection. (A spokesperson for Gottheimer did not respond to a request for comment.)
The bills also include provisions that would send unarmed, trained first responders to those experiencing mental health crises and reduce fatal encounters between police and people with mental illness and provide federal grants for communities for evidence-based violence intervention and prevention programs. It will also improve the ability of law enforcement to solve gun crimes, support victims, and ensure justice for shooting victims.
They’re unlikely to pass the Senate though. But they will provide House Democrats with a shield against relentless attacks from Republicans that Democrats are soft on crime.
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BIDEN REAFFIRMS HIS SUPPORT FOR PUERTO RICO — President Biden this afternoon during a briefing on the latest developments in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona said he was “laser focused on what’s happening to the people of Puerto Rico” and that the federal government will “do everything we can to help.”
The president also thanked the island’s local responders: “Disasters are traumatic for survivors but they’re also traumatic for first responders,” he said, urging people affected to “ask for help.”
Biden was joined at the briefing by Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York and Mayor Eric Adams of New York City.
Speaker Pelosi told reporters that Congress would determine if FEMA needs more money for the recovery once the damage assessment is completed. She added that the people of Puerto Rico are on the minds of all of her members.
US APPROVES ASSISTANCE FOR VENEZUELA — The US announced nearly $376 million in new humanitarian assistance to respond to the needs of vulnerable Venezuelans in the South American country.
The White House said the latest surge in border crossings is driven by a new migration pattern due to the falling authoritarian regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. Meanwhile, migration from Mexico and northern Central America has dropped for three consecutive months.
“We are doing what we can to work with our regional partners to address this new challenge and process individuals [in a] safely, orderly and human way,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday. “That is a campaign commitment that the president has made and continues to move forward with.”
YELLEN PENS OP-ED ON ECONOMIC GROWTH — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote an op-ed in The Atlantic on how President Biden’s economic agenda will ultimately make the economy more resilient and American workers and businesses less susceptible to global supply and price shocks.
The plan comes a day after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates in its latest attempt to slow down inflation and focuses on four priority areas: Energy, food, digital technology and businesses. Read the op-ed
— Related: Weekly unemployment claims last week increased to 213,000, an uptick of 5,000 and the first in six weeks. The overall unemployment numbers are still though, which the White House points to as a sign of the economy’s strength despite 40-year-high inflation.
SENATORS TO WELLS FARGO: EXPLAIN INTERVIEWING PRACTICES — Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts sent a letter to Wells Fargo CEO and President Charles Scharf and Senior Vice President Bei Ling on the bank’s reported practice of conducting “fake interviews” with women and minority candidates after already filling the vacancies. Wells Fargo declined a request for comment and referred Supercreator to an announcement from last month on the company’s review of its diverse candidate slate guidelines.
GOP GETS 10TH ECA REFORM COSPONSOR — Republican Sen. Pat Toomey announced his support for a bill that would update the Electoral Count Act, which outlines the vice president and Congress’s role in certifying presidential elections.
With Toomey as the tenth Republican cosponsor to the legislation led by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the Senate has enough votes to clear the 60 votes required for passage (as long as all 50 Democrats support the legislation).
The House passed its own ECA reform bill on Wednesday the Senate seems intent on passing its version, which has a few differences with the House’s as I reported on Monday.
FLIGHT COMPLAINTS WERE UP THIS SUMMER — The Transportation Department released a report that showed air travel service complaints increased 16.5 percent from June to July, more than 260 percent above pre-pandemic levels. Complaints were up 34.9 percent from May to June, a 270 percent spike from pre-pandemic levels.
— How the agency is responding: DOT earlier this month introduced a new airline customer service dashboard to help you determine what you’re owed when a flight is canceled or delayed because of an airline issue.
The department is also monitoring airlines’ operations to ensure that airlines are not engaging in unrealistic scheduling of flights and are complying with aviation consumer protection requirements, including ensuring you receive prompt refunds if you’re no longer interested in continuing your travel when your flights are canceled or significantly changed.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg this summer also pushed airlines to improve their service. Previously, none of the ten largest US airlines guaranteed meals or hotels when a significant delay or cancelation was within the airlines’ control. Now nine airlines guarantee meals and nine guarantee hotels.
FLOTUS TO COMMEMORATE JACKIE O — First Lady Dr. Jill Biden on Friday will speak at a ceremony honoring former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The event will dedicate a newly installed garden featuring a new sculpture to celebrate Kennedy’s legacy in restoring the White House and preserving Lafayette Square.
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TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden this morning hosted a bilateral meeting in New York City with President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. of the Philippines. Later in the afternoon, he received a briefing on Hurricane Fiona and the ongoing government response in Puerto Rico at the FEMA Region 2 Office at One World Trade Center. The president also participated in a Democratic National Committee reception and is now preparing to head back to the White House.
Vice President Harris this morning traveled to Milwaukee to speak at the Democratic Attorneys General Association Conference. Then she held a conversation with Latino leaders before returning to Washington, DC this afternoon.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff this morning met with state and local leaders from North Carolina for a service project. In the afternoon, he spoke at the Department of Labor and Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations’ Equity in Focus Summit. Emhoff also hosted a roundtable discussion with multi-faith college students on the meaning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
The House is in and voted to pass four bills as part of a public safety and policing package.
The Senate is in and failed to advance the DISCLOSE Act, which would require corporations, labor organizations and political organizations to disclose contributions of more than $10,000 during an election cycle to the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours.
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Correction: Wednesday’s newsletter misspelled Dan Varroney’s name.